Cancer Research UK is the world’s largest cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research. Their vision is to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured – from the most common types to those that affect just a few people. This includes cancers that affect children and young people. Their ground-breaking work and strong track record in children’s and young people’s cancers is part of the reason more 0-24-year-olds are surviving cancer today than ever before.
Cancer in children and young people is fundamentally different to cancer in adults – they require a different strategic approach and unique research. Because of this, Cancer Research UK are dedicated to funding more of this type of research to help increase survival and reduce the long-term side effects that many young patients often experience. As part of this commitment, they’ve joined forces with Children with Cancer UK to co-fund the Cancer Research UK–Children with Cancer UK Innovation Awards. With this funding, 5 new teams of world-leading scientists, with up to £1 million each, are embarking on 5 very distinct research projects that aim to transform our understanding of children’s and young people’s cancers and find new ways to prevent and treat these complex diseases.
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Today, more children and young people are surviving cancer than ever before, with around 8 in 10 children living for 10 years or more following a cancer diagnosis. The high survival rate is a great example of the power of modern medicine.
This is driven in part by an understanding of how cancer cells differ from normal cells, including their DNA. But we need more information, so one of the Innovation Award teams is focusing on a change in the DNA often seen in the cancer cells of children and young people with cancer, known as aneuploidy.
What is aneuploidy?
Most DNA in our cells is packaged into tiny structures called chromosomes. Most people have 23 pairs of chromosomes in each of their cells, bringing it to a total of 46 chromosomes.
Aneuploidy is when a cell has one or more extra or missing chromosomes. For example, having 45 or 47 chromosomes, as opposed to the usual 46.
Aneuploidies are often found in the cancer cells of children and young people with different types of cancer, and although they can be used as markers to identify some cancer types, how and why aneuploidy occurs is not well understood. This is where Professor Christine Harrison and her team come in.
Professor Christine Harrison
Harrison, along with Professor Jonathan Higgins and Professor Steve Clifford, all based at Newcastle University, will be harnessing their expertise in chromosome biology and cell division to understand how aneuploidy can drive cancer development, and in turn, identify targets that can be exploited by new therapeutics.
The results from this study also have the potential to improve our understanding of cancer in a way that may eventually help scientists identify children at greater risk of developing aneuploidy, allowing for better monitoring of those individuals. They may lead to us finding new ways to treat these types of cancer and potentially prevent certain cancers from developing in the first place.
Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, Michelle Mitchell commented, “we’ve listened to both parents and researchers and their concerns about lack of progress for children’s and young people’s cancers. That’s why we made a commitment to change this through our Cancer Research UK for Children & Young People research strategy.
“We hope this funding boost will build momentum in the field to improve our understanding of these types of cancer and ultimately lead to fewer children and young people losing their lives to this disease.”
Visit the CRUK blog to find out more about the five Innovation Award research teams and their ambitions to find new ways to prevent and treat children’s and young people’s cancers.
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They need your help and generosity to ensure CRUK can continue to fund amazing research projects like these, so one day all cancers are cured. When we stand united, cancer doesn’t stand a chance. So, be on the team that will get you to the finish line. Wear your free running vest with pride, take a look at our training tips, feel the support from our cheering teams, re-hydrate with free refreshments and join Team CRUK right now: